Sunday, September 25, 2011

Some adult education thoughts

The GPS representatives met on Sunday, Sept. 25, with people who attend the Covenant and Bible Speaks Today adult education classes.

Here's what they thought Second Church does best:

* Food and fellowship.
* Welcoming newcomers
* Preaching
* Local mission
* Music
* Preservation of our art, architecture and our whole building.
* Our office management team seems well lined up now.

We asked people attending to dream aloud about how to make adult education at Second better. Some of their thoughts:

* We need a comprehensive, long-term Bible study program. (Think of such models as the Bethany, Alpha and Kerygma material.)
* Some Bible study should be clergy led, some lay led and some located outside the walls of the church.
* Consider a "progressive" model that moves from home to home.
* We should figure out how to make good Bible study available online with occasional meetings of the groups following the study program.
* Passion for Bible study -- and all of adult education -- must come from the people in the pews.
* Let's look into using Bible games, whether in-person with printed materials or online.
* Let's ponder the Village U model (from Village Presbyterian Church) to offer leadership training, Bible study, book study and speakers.
* Help people listening to sermons by using more graphics during the sermon.
* Prepare adults to engage sermons more fully by giving them material ahead of time to study.
* Focus adult education offerings on people's current needs and make these offerings relatively short-term.
* Don Fisher could take a more active role in helping to create adult education offerings beyond the Witherspoon Class.
* A crucial part of all adult education efforts should be fellowship.
* Let's create more mission trips for adults and create a strong educational component to such trips.
* The current third-floor classroom locations for the Covenant and Bible Speaks classes make it difficult for newcomers to find the classes. Let's rethink these locations.
* Let's try six-week series of Bible studies. Well-focused, well-prepared but limited in terms of time commitment.
* Many adult education offerings can be lay led but should have strong inspiration and leadership from the church staff.
* Let's draw on local seminaries to use some of the professors to lead some classes or speak occasionally.
* Let's find at least part-time space on our staff for a local seminary student to help us with adult education.
* Adult education offerings need to have much stronger staff support in the area of communications and marketing so people inside and outside the congregation know what's coming up.
* Let's more intentionally link adult education to upcoming sermon series so we can be more coordinated in what we offer.
* Why not create online chat opportunities in which anyone could connect to one of our pastors for an hour or so once a week to talk about the Bible, theology or any issues about which those who connect have questions. But let's not forget that not all of our members use the Internet.
* We need to train our people much more thoroughly to lead small groups and be leaders of adult education classes.
* Let's offer various adult education resources, such as Bible study material, on the Web site. Maybe even a blog about what people are studying there.
* We should make sure that the education hour for both youth and adults does not get interrupted by other things. Keep it sacrosanct.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Taking care to consider all thoughts

As your GPS team met Wednesday night and thought about the ministry Second is doing now and what it might do in the future, we were well aware of two (well, at least two) emotions running through the congregation as we do our work:

* Excitement. Our future can be bright with promise, and there is hope that our work can help guide us to that future.

* Anxiety. Change is never easy, and there is fear that we may propose things that will upset people.

We're well aware of both emotions. In fact, at our very first gathering in July we read from the third chapter of the book of Ezra how, when the people of Israel returned to Jerusalem from an exile of about six decades, they began to build a new temple. The result was that there was lots of shouting for joy at what was coming and yet at the very same time there was great weeping from people who remembered the first temple.

So we know that whatever we recommend for Second's future will produce both joy and weeping, at least in a figurative sense.

We also know that the task of the church is to introduce people to Jesus Christ, who can transform their lives. And that's what the GPS continues to keep as our focus.

What we want to avoid is for the emotions of anxiety to lead to unfounded rumors and unexpressed questions about our future. And that means that everyone in our congregation has an obligation to speak to us about hopes and fears. You have several ways to do that:

* E-mail us at

* Leave a note in the church file folder of Bill Tammeus, GPS moderator.

* Attend presentations by GPS member Molly Hundley and our pastor/head of staff Paul Rock the Wednesday evenings of Oct. 12, 19 and 26 after the Wednesdays Together meal.

* Talk to any GPS task force member.

We are trying to be as open and transparent as possible in this work and we really want members of our congregation to be that way, too. And as we do this work, we continue to ask for your prayerful support.

By the way, some of us GPSers have been reading a 2007 book called Who Stole My Church? by a pastor named Gordon MacDonald. It's about how a fictional church deals with change and is quite well done and helpful. To learn more about it, read this entry on Bill Tammeus' "Faith Matters" blog.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Young adult responses

After church this past Sunday, one of our GPS members, Anne, met with Second members in the 20s and 30s age group and asked them some of our questions.

Here's what they had to say in response to the question of what Second is best at:

* Being a community. Everyone is accepted. Paul provides a great atmosphere that everyone can relate to. Tera and Paul make everyone feel involved.
* Welcoming new/potential members to the congregation. Second relates well to a young crowd.
* Accepting people
* Getting groups together to share similar interests. Getting involved.
* Second is best at making people who have already accepted Christ feel comfortable and included.
* Fellowship
* Meeting new people, events.

In response to the question of what Second needs to to or transform to survive and thrive, they said:
* Needs to make sure new members become involved right away. Needs to make sure we talk about our faith.
* Reach out to younger groups through social media tools.
* Get the younger generation involved.
* Bring more contemporary aspects into the church.

In response to the question of what potential roadblocks might keep Second from getting where we want to go, they said:

* Making us understand that this is more than just church. Members need to be involved in more than just one thing. Need to work on building costs.
* The economy and the difficulty of different schedules within the group.
* Tradition. Tradition is a great but a lot of younger students would like a contemporary worship service.
* Making non-members get baptized before joining. Why not allow them to join and learn more about the baptism process?
* Not enough youth attending.

In response to the question of what's the one thing you wish Second were doing that it's not doing or could do better, they said:

* Grabbing new members once they join and making sure they are involved. Challenge the young 20s and 30s people  to be more active and to contribute to the church in talent and skill.
* More opportunities to travel abroad
* The church needs a church-wide phone book with pictures to get to know everyone’s faces.
* More contemporary music or a contemporary worship service.
* More activities for holidays such as Christmas, Halloween and Thanksgiving. 

In response to the question of how we can find and develop resources to achieve our dreams, they said:

* Tap members for skills through mailers/emails. Make members feel involved in the process.
* Reach the college campus.
* Look to social media in order to reach out to other groups.

In response to the question of how we balance the risk of moving to aggressively with change against the risk of not moving quickly or far enough, they said:

* Get those who embrace change to move at first and then show those who resist that it can be done by implementation.
* Keep conversation channels open and constantly ask for suggestions.
* Simply move at a slow and steady pace so that people do not get overwhelmed.
* Take the risk and move aggressively - wait for the response and act accordingly. Know that some make not like it but change is necessary in most cases. 

Finally, in response to the question of how much weight we give to potential alienation of members who may feel that progress is not what they're after, they said:

* This should have great weight. What kind of progress is such that it doesn’t include our current members?
* Create a group for them to communicate with one another.
* Not too much weight since we have to progress to survive, evolve, adapt, grow.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New church life grows in Midtown

Our GPS team held its weekly meeting Sept. 14 at Jacob's Well, the church at 42nd and Wyoming that used to be Roanoke Presbyterian Church.

Tim Keel, JW's founding pastor, talked with us about how JW has succeeded in the same building in which Roanoke eventually met its demise.

He first asked us to imagine three intersecting Venn circles, such as the ones displayed here.

Let "C" here stand for a congregation's context, which means who its members are and where they're located, among other things.

Let "B" here represent a congregation's theology, which means, among other things, answering the questions "Who is God?" and "What is the Gospel in this time and place?"

And let "A" represent a congregation's systems, or structure, which means, among other things, how a congregation orders and governs its life.

Many churches, Tim said, will fully engage one or two of those circles and do pretty well with them, but not all three. The result is that in one congregation members are willing to shift theology a bit or context a bit but no one is allowed to mess with that church's governing system.

Another church might be willing to make adjustments in governance and context but if you don't get its rigid theology exactly right you won't be welcome there.

In reality, all three of these areas are moving targets and it's difficult to keep track of all at once and to discern what might need to change in each. But if churches don't try to manage all three areas they probably don't have a long-term future. That's one reason the GPS team is at work trying to imagine a future for Second that pays attention to all of these areas and that recognizes when and where and how change must happen.

In the end, Tim said, congregations must invite people not to a church but to a way of life -- to what we on the GPS have been calling a sense of transformation.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

First Friday group responses

Three of us GPS task force members met on Friday, Sept. 9, with Second's longtime First Friday dinner/study group and asked its members some of our questions. Here, in brief form, are some of the responses:
Yes, the Jeters served ribs. Yum.
In response to the question of what Second does best (or at least well):

  • Being friendly.
  • Welcoming people.
  • Providing a variety of opportunities for people to plug in.
  • Good Bible teaching.
  • We care about one another.
  • There’s a diversity of mission efforts.
  • Metro Mission of Deacons is especially important.
  • We do worship well.
  • We serve educated, professional people well.
  • We provide leadership in various areas for the community.
  • We have lots of talent in our membership but sometimes struggle to marshal it.
  • We have some great art in the church — and artists, too.
  • The church is an energizing place where we can get recharged.
  • The history of how our church formed is important.
  • Our music program is helping with our relationship with UMKC.
In response to the question of what must change for Second to survive and thrive:

  • We much teach both our children and our adults biblical literacy.
  • We must figure out how to keep young families in our congregation and how those families can keep their children connected.
  • We must create meaningful mission opportunities for young people.
In response to an invitation to share their dreams for Second:

  • Provide love and care for our children by our adults.
  • Biblical and spiritual education through mentoring young people.
  • We need to bring back Scouting to Second.
  • We need to stand more publicly on the side of poor and voiceless people, especially on local issues that need our advocacy.
  • We should use our music program to reach out to the community. Like the drumming group Cory is helping with.
  • We should be training our people to become leaders at all levels of the PCUSA.
 Two additional comments:

“My vision for this church is to be freakishly good in terms of leadership."
“As a church we don’t think Christian education is very important.”

If you have comments you'd like to share with the GPS team, leave them here, e-mail them to or drop a note in the church file folder of Bill Tammeus, GPS moderator.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

For the Aug. 31 meeting of the GPS team, we gathered at The Children's Place, one of our mission partners that has been designated to share in the mission portion of Second Church's recent capital campaign.

The GPS members (not all visible) at our meeting at The Children's Place.
David Matson, president and CEO of the agency, welcomed us and told us a bit about the agency and the needy children it currently serves.

Then we got down to the business of adopting a tentative draft of a vision statement, after which we began to take an inventory and assessment of the various pieces of ministry going on at Second now.

A vision statement tries to paint a picture of the reality toward which we are intentionally and prayerfully striving. Here's what ours says at the moment, though it's subject to change -- and will be supplemented later with a mission statement (to describe how we'll seek to reach our vision) and a values statement (to describe the standards we'll try to employ as we work toward our vision).

Second Presbyterian Church:
Where God’s amazing grace transforms lives

Second Church is not just a place where God is worshiped in the midst of our city and where souls cared for, but is also a people who — transformed by Jesus Christ — learn to love God, love our neighbors and love ourselves so we may serve our community and our world as the body of Christ.

At Second we:

  • Joyfully worship God out of gratitude
  • Teach ourselves, our children and others to be disciples of Jesus Christ by sharing the gospel with all who will hear
  • Nurture souls within our congregation and outside our walls, especially the poor and voiceless
  • Use our many talents and resources to work toward individual and social transformation by doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with our God
We'd love for you to react to the picture of Second that our draft vision statement is trying to paint. You may leave comments here, send e-mail to or put a note in the file folder at church of the GPS moderator, Bill Tammeus.